Thursday morning I read these words by Francois Mauriac: “There is no encounter in which we do not encounter Him.” I pondered for a moment on how true this is, yet how difficult it is for me to remember this reality as I go about my day. It is easy for me to encounter Him when the house is quiet and my children are not up yet and I am immersed in some wonderful spiritual work. Once the day erupts, however, my great intentions often slip to the back of the queue. This truth about my life would be very discouraging if not for the fact that God, thankfully, is not so absentminded. He lovingly and patiently keeps track of my sincere desires; then when I am absorbed by something else, He often reminds me of His sweet presence in the ordinary encounters of my life.
The other night, for example, it was after 10 o’clock and as far as I was concerned, I was off duty. All I wanted was to climb into my nice warm bed, and curl up with a good book for some well earned quiet. The second I slid beneath my sheets, however, my door flung open and there, with an anguished expression, stood my youngest child, Ben. Moaning he cried, “My stomach hurts! Can I sleep in your bed?”
I wish that I could tell you how sweet and full of motherly concern I was at that moment, but, my immediate response to this poor child was a business like, “Really? I am sure you are fine. Now just go back to your own bed, close your eyes and sleep.” I heroically refrained from adding, “And leave your poor overworked slave of a mother alone!”
Of course, he was not okay. I did manage to rise to the occasion without at least an audible sigh. It was Lent after all and it was the least I could do for God, right? I was actually feeling pretty proud of myself, until around 3 am. At that wee hour I was beginning to see double and self pity began making inroads into my resolve to suffer valiantly for the sake of the kingdom. It was right about then, if I can remember correctly, that I happened to look over at my husband, sleeping comfortably, blithely unaware of all my self-sacrificing. I pictured him waking up the next morning, yawning and complaining that he hadn’t slept a wink. Well I should probably have kept a lid on my overactive imagination, but thankfully, just as I was about to utter something I would undoubtedly regret in the light of day, I heard in my heart, “You are my Simon.”
Given where my thoughts were headed, I am pretty certain that I did not come up with that one on my own. At those words, “You are my Simon,” I instantly remembered all the times during Stations of the Cross when I had thought about Simon of Cyrene’s unexpected role in the whole drama of our salvation. Filled with compassion for Jesus’ unmitigated suffering, I would often imagine myself there in Simon’s place, joyful that I had been given this incredible opportunity to help Jesus carry His cross.
Consequently, when I felt these words, “You are my Simon,” forming in my spirit, I knew clearly what God was saying to me. Here was my chance. At that moment, at that terrible hour, in the confines of my own home, Jesus was sick. He was trembling with chills, frightened by the prospect of throwing up, and like any ordinary child of ten, He was in need of comfort – not just any comfort, of course, but motherly comfort! There it was, my reminder.
“Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto Me.”